Tips, lessons and reflections on evolving and improving your travel blog at the year one milestone.
One year and 14 days ago, I hit “publish” on my first Wanderlost Way post (or should I say posts). Just like I waited to have nearly a full sentence perfected before saying my first word as a baby, I went into The Wanderlost Way with not one, not two, but 33 first posts highlighting my favorite destinations.
Go big or go home, right?
I sure didn’t go home. This past year has been a jam-packed learning experience, both for the blog and my travel/ writing goals in general. I started The Wanderlost Way as a general travel blog with little to no direction. Now, after 83 blog posts, 40 published travel articles, and 15 YouTube travel videos, I feel like I’m heading down the right path – at least for now.
As anyone who’s launched – and stuck with – a travel blog knows, year one is 365 days of exhilarating, over-the-top and, at times, rewarding chaos, so here’s a quick peek into the lessons I gleaned from my crazy-yet-exciting first year with The Wanderlost Way.
1. Your blog will change dramatically. Let it.
I started The Wanderlost Way as a travel blog highlighting my favorite destinations and silly follies en route to said destinations. (Hence: Wanderlost.) That’s good in theory, but pretty much everyone has a “here’s where I went” travel blog.
And the whole misadventure niche? One of my favorite travel bloggers, Lauren at Never Ending Footsteps, has that niche covered pretty well. (Seriously – go read her stuff – it’s hilarious! But wait … don’t leave yet … I’m still here!)
Then I thought I could highlight “attainable adventures” (I heart alliteration), but another well-established blog, Planet D, also has that down pat. (I also heart Planet D!)
While sure, I could offer my own spin on attainable adventures, I don’t want to be another Planet D. I want to be, well, me, highlighting my own niche. It was then I realized that road trips were (and remain) a pretty under-used niche in the travel industry. While bloggers obviously highlight them, few really focus on them.
Cha-ching. Now I do. Ninety percent of my travels are road trips anyway, so it only makes sense. I went from general travel to misadventure to attainable adventures to road trip travel blogger in one year.
Exhausted from my run-around? Same. Let’s take a quick water break before lesson two…
2. Your blog design is your brand. Make it shine.
All hydrated? Cool. Same. This lesson, unfortunately, cost me a good chunk of money, but I highly recommend it.
I started The Wanderlost Way with my own WordPress.com design and a self-designed logo. After about six months of sticking with it, I bit the bullet and reached out to Alpine Lane Creative (such a great company!) to give the ol’ blog a design overhaul.
She helped me transfer over to WordPress.org and created the beautiful design and logo I have today. She was fabulous to work with and I couldn’t be happier with this new look. It helps my site appear polished, professional and serious (but not too serious), which is important since I use this not just to discuss road trips and misadventures, but because it’s where I display work for potential editors and brand partners.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of brands …
3. Brand collaborations are not a priority anymore.
When I started my blog, I read all about how to best attract and work with brands to make my blog profitable. In fact, I read so much about it that I didn’t even stop to think if I actually wanted to work with brands – I just figured of course I did, that’s what every blogger dreams of, right?
Well, no. As I started to watch blogs filled with branded content, I realized that’s not where I want to be – or, at least it’s not a priority. Blogs that have branded content (for the most part) have huge followings. Bloggers with huge followings have to really hustle to gain those numbers. They spend hours daily to get where they are – and it’s wildly impressive. But it’s not for me.
I have a full-time job beyond the passion project that is The Wanderlost Way, so my time is limited. Instead of hustling for followers, I’ve decided the number one goal for my blog is to be a helpful resource for readers (you!!) while simultaneously serving as a creative outlet for me to try new things and experiment. If it attracts brands down the road, cool. If not … also cool.
4. Freelance writing is a major priority for me.
While brand relationships went down in the priority scale, freelance writing went way up. This is something I love doing – and, um, I went to J-school, so let’s put that degree to use! I’ve always been a writer, and while breaking into the freelance travel/ lifestyle writing world is tough, I’ve had some initial successes (Mental Floss, Elite Daily, and MSN, for example), which has whet my appetite for so much more!
5. Blogging opens the door to exciting new friendships. Pursue them.
Sure, the more followers the more successful the blog, but honestly, I’ve found that getting to know followers or peers on a personal level is one of the greatest parts of travel blogging. Whether it’s new friends through Instagram or acquaintances-turned-pals through Travel Massive meetups, I’ve developed some fun new friendships through this crazy travel blogging world.
What’s even better, these travel friends really understand your travel tendencies. No eyebrows raised for crazy trips planned, and no “Wow, I could never do that” responses when discussing wild career dreams. Travel people get travel people, and it’s a niche I’m so happy to be part of.
6. I have no idea what the future holds.
And that’s OK. In fact, I love it. If I learned anything from year one travel blogging, it’s that nothing (well, mostly nothing) goes as planned.
While slightly terrifying, it’s also exhilarating. In year one, I was all over the place (refer back to lesson one). This lack of direction didn’t deter me from putting my work out into the world, though.
While I can’t predict the future – I never imagined I’d have a road trip blog with published travel bylines – I can tell you this. If you put your work out there, success (in one form or another) will follow.
Year one was nothing short of crazy – but wonderful – and as I head into year two, my mantra is slow and steady. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind while constantly comparing yourself to others (it’s something I write about a lot!), but in year two, I’m going to try reallyyyyy hard to stop. I’m heading in a great direction – and a different direction than my peers. Comparison is never apples to apples, and hey – if everyone was an apple, I’d rather be an orange. Or … heck, maybe a star fruit.
OK, if you’ve made it this far you’re probably not looking to get into a discussion about favorite fruits. Instead, I’d love for you to share your thoughts on travel blogging in the comments below.
Have tips for keeping your head up? Ideas to help me improve in year two? Any and all ideas are welcome, so hit me with them!